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Patient Information

Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches form in the digestive system — most often in the large intestine — and become inflamed.

WakeMed’s dedicated colorectal surgeons and gastroenterologists provide exceptional care to patients with diverticulitis, offering a range of treatments from lifestyle changes to medication to surgery, if needed.

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What Are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?

The pouches themselves, called diverticula, are fairly common in people over age 40. When these pouches develop, it’s called diverticulosis. When the pouches become inflamed or infected, it’s called diverticulitis.

This can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Severe abdominal pain, which can come on quickly, and is usually worse on the left side
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bowel habits (such as constipation  or diarrhea)

Diverticulitis can be both acute, including severe attacks of inflammation, or chronic, in which cases symptoms can subside, but come back.

Risk factors for developing diverticulitis include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise

Certain drugs can also increase the risk, including steroids, opiates, ibuprofen and naproxen.

Diet can also play a role in diverticulitis. Studies have found that a diet low in fiber and high in refined foods can increase the risk of developing the condition.

How Is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?

You should see your primary care physician when you develop mild to moderate symptoms. If your symptoms are severe, you should head to the nearest emergency room where you will likely be seen by a general surgeon or a colorectal surgeon.

Our physicians start by taking a detailed patient history, and perform a rectal examination. We may perform a computed tomography (CT) scan to confirm the diagnosis. This test allows the doctor to view the intestines and surrounding tissues.

How Is Diverticulitis Treated?

At WakeMed, our experienced team works with patients to determine if the diverticulitis is mild enough to treat with bowel rest, lifestyle modifications (including a high-fiber diet), and antibiotics. In some cases, surgery may be required.

When Is Surgery Needed for Diverticulitis?

For surgical treatment of diverticulitis, we offer patients minimally invasive surgery. These robotic- and laparoscopic-assisted surgeries result in less pain and discomfort, smaller incisions, quicker recovery, faster return to a normal diet, and fewer complications.

Tiny incisions are made in the lower abdomen, and a small endoscope is inserted that transmits images to a nearby monitor. The inflamed or infected section of the colon is removed, and the remaining healthy section will be connected to the rectum. With severe inflammation or perforation, patients may need to have a have a temporary colostomy.

Learn more about what to expect from colorectal surgery.